Monday, September 1, 2014

Meet the School Counselor: Making a "Counselor Catcher"

My students with their "Counselor Catchers." 

A new school year makes me want to start fresh with so many things.  This year I was interested in doing something different with my fifth graders for their "Meet the Counselor" lesson. So I thought I would let them tell each other what a School Counselor does, but it had to be in a fun and engaging way. Since only 4 of my 72 fifth graders were new this year and all of those had come from local schools with School Counselors, the "Counselor Catcher" was born.

This lesson took about 45 minutes and was done with only my fifth graders, although I imagine 4th grade could handle it as well.  During my lessons, one class had a fire drill and another was an early release day so I ended up with only 30 minutes.  In those classes we only got to play briefly, so I collected their "Counselor Catchers" to finish the game and debrief in our next lesson.

Preparing for the "Counselor Catcher" Lesson
I have my own classroom with tables and chairs for teaching classes.  Each table was pre-set with a canister of markers and either four white papers or four green papers on it. These were already printed with my questions and cut to size (8 1/2" x 8 1/2").  The green and white papers each contained a different set of questions. This makes it easier when playing the "Counselor Catcher" game to ensure students are asking and answering different questions and choosing different partners.

I have included the templates for the two sets of questions I used here and here.  After downloading my question templates you will need to make a few changes as some of the questions on the templates are specific to my school.  Feel free to adapt the questions to your role and your school situation.
A word of caution when copying templates!  Every printer/copy machine prints/copies differently. The printer I used at home for my original template copied the template differently on the school copy machine.  And even though it is a square it mattered where and how I placed it on the printer glass. Test print a copy of each template before making all you need for the lesson.  I didn't and I wasted a lot of time and paper!

Once your questions are changed to reflect your needs, copy half the number needed of each template in a separate color on regular printer paper.  I chose white and green printer paper because that is what I had, but feel free to use whatever colors you have available in order to distinguish between the two sets of questions and who can be partners with who.  Also, I do not recommend using card stock for this activity as it is too stiff.  Next, cut all the papers to size by trimming off the bottom 2 1/2 inches. This is best done with a paper cutter.

Make some extra copies of the question templates and practice folding these yourself before class. Although there are pictures on the slides, it helps to have practiced and to have a "Counselor Catcher" folded that students can see at the various stages in person.  Ok, download  and review the powerpoint (I have a space where you can add a photo of yourself if you want, or if not just delete it), gather your markers and your question sheets and you are now prepared to teach your class how to make a "Counselor Catcher" and how to play the "Counselor Catcher" game!

Presenting the "Counselor Catcher" Lesson
After a brief introduction to my classroom procedures and meeting our new students I told the boys and girls this year, rather then me reminding them about all the things I do, we would be making "Counselor Catchers" and they would be asking/telling each other about my job.  Many of the students had made "Fortune Tellers" or "Cootie Catchers" before and others didn't know how, but wanted to learn. So, there was a sense of excitement about what we were going to do.

Next, I turned on the Meet the School Counselor: How much do you know about your School Counselor? powerpoint and walked them through the steps of making their own "Counselor Catcher." With our "Counselor Catchers" complete, I explained  how to play the game (also on the powerpoint) and then gave them about 5-7 minutes to play the game, remembering they could only partner with someone who had a different color "Counselor Catcher" from them.  When I called time, I gave them another 5 minutes to partner with someone who had the same color "Counselor Catcher" as they did.

 Debriefing the "Counselor Catcher" Game
After completing the game, we returned to our seats to debrief.  I found there were some questions the students did not know and some they did not understand.  Yikes!!!  Had I not given a good explanation in previous years about my job role or did they still have summer brain?  The student's feedback gave me good information about what I needed to do differently in explaining my role and ideas for better wording of my questions on the "Counselor Catcher."  These were fun classes to teach with my 5th graders and definitely an activity I would do again.  I was thinking, could I possibly adapt the "Counselor Catcher" (maybe a "Bully Catcher") as a fun way to assess what my students have learned at the conclusion of a future unit?

What I learned...
This activity told me so much more about my students than just what they know or didn't know about the job of the School Counselor.  It was very informative to see who could follow step by step directions and who couldn't, or didn't.  It was interesting to observe how they helped one another. Did they offer encouragement and show their table mates what to do, or just do it for them? Who got frustrated and gave up or got an attitude?  Who asked for help and who sat there and said and did nothing? Also, I found the boys in my fifth grade classes seemed to struggle more with the paper folding than the girls.  Overall, I felt I got a sense of who my students are as individuals and problem solvers better than with anything I have done with them in a long time.  Wow!  I think I learned more than they did!

Here's hoping you have found this idea intriguing and are willing to try this activity with your students. Not only was it fun and engaging for all of us, but the students had a chance to review the role of the School Counselor and I had a chance to get to know my students on a deeper level. I highly recommend it!

What types of "Meet the Counselor" activities have you tried?  Have you ever done anything with paper folding?  If you try this activity, please let me know how it goes! I would love to hear about your experience. Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Love this, Jeannie. Pinned it! Thanks for sharing.


    1. Thanks Barbara! I know you will come up with some awesome Character Education activity to use with this!

  2. This is great! Will use it with 4th grade next year (all 125of them!) they love making Cootie Catchers as they call them!

    1. So glad you like it! You know the kids will too!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this resource! Can't wait to try it with my kiddos!

  4. Thanks! My students love this activity. I hope yours will too!